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Five Downtown Stories to Watch in 2016

By Irene Plagianos | December 30, 2015 2:26pm | Updated on January 4, 2016 8:55am
 We took a look back at some of the most influential stories of 2015 and what to look for in 2016.
We took a look back at some of the most influential stories of 2015 and what to look for in 2016.
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DNAinfo/ Irene Plagianos

LOWER MANHATTAN — With scores of new residential towers, hotels, commercial spaces and a revitalized waterfront in the works, Lower Manhattan is growing and changing each day.

From debates about how the South Street Seaport should be revamped to losing a powerful political ally thanks to his own corruption, there were many stories that influenced the future of Downtown in 2015.

DNAinfo New York took a look back at some of the stories that mattered most to Lower Manhattan this past year and that will continue to shape the neighborhood in 2016:

Who Will Replace Sheldon Silver?

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was a beloved political figure in Lower Manhattan for decades who was known for getting things done for his constituents. But a federal jury found him guilty of corruption in November on seven counts of fraud, extortion and money laundering

after prosecutors said he used his office for personal profit.

While many in Lower Manhattan mourned the loss of an advocate, others are looking ahead to new candidates and a hopefully more ethical Albany. 

Governor Cuomo said he will likely hold a special election on April 19 for Silver's seat.

So far, four possible candidates have said they are interested in running: Paul Newell the Democratic district leader for the 65th Assembly District, who ran against Silver in 2008; Jenifer Rajkumar, also a Democratic district leader and a lawyer who unsuccessfully challenged Margaret Chin for her council seat two years ago; Yuh-Line Niou, the chief of staff for Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim, who lives in FiDi; and Don Lee, an IT executive who worked for many years in city government.

The Howard Hughes Corporation's Redevelopment of the South Street Seaport

Trying to revitalize the Seaport has been a long process with hotly debated plans over the course of years. As DNAinfo first reported earlier this month, one of the most controversial pieces of a revamped Seaport — a plan for a soaring residential tower near the Brooklyn Bridge — has been called off by the developer, the Howard Hughes Corporation. 

Over the past year two years, the Hughes Corporation detailed and tweaked an overhaul plan that had included the much-maligned tower, as well as revitalizing a landmarked Fulton Fish Market warehouse, the Tin Building, into a food-market, moving the South Street Seaport Museum and creating an expansive marina. 

Any plans for redevelopment for the historic neighborhood still needs city approval, but the Hughes Corporation has stalled on releasing its final proposals. 

The development behemoth is also currently rebuilding the Seaport's Pier 17 into a new sleek shopping center.

The Evolution of the World Trade Center

Fourteen years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the World Trade Center complex is finally feeling like an active part the city again.

There's been much progress and much more is on the way.

In 2015, 1 World Trade Center's Observation deck opened, and 2 WTC finally has plans locked in to move forward. The building, the last tower that will be constructed on the site, secured 21 Century Fox and News Corp as its anchor tenants, and announced a new terraced design by Bjarke Ingels. Once complete, in 2020, the skyscraper will be the second tallest (behind 1 WTC) within the complex, rising 1,270 feet.

The much-anticipated Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center Transit Hub is finally slated to open in the Spring of 2016 after delays and water leaks — with new shops and restaurants, including Eataly, set to open in the hub and surrounding buildings in April, in 4 World Trade Center.

In addition, the long-delayed World Trade Center Performing Arts finally secured funding to move ahead with construction. More information about its plans and artistic direction are anticipated in 2016.

The Changing Face of Small Businesses Downtown

With all the change in Lower Manhattan and anticipated growth, many of the longtime small businesses are being pushed out — either because their buildings are being torn down for new luxury condo towers, or their rents have more than doubled.

Just this last year numerous longtime restaurants, bars and businesses, including 33-year-old bar Raccoon Lodge, have been forced to shutter.

Many in the community are left wondering how this will reshape the neighborhood as the changes keep coming.

Anger over the Battery Park City Authority's Leadership

A series of controversial decisions by the Battery Park City Authority — including pushing out a beloved Marina operator and replacing BPCA executive director Tessa Huxley — has led to some heated community interaction over the past year.

Most recently, the BPCA's decision to cut Park Enforcement Patrol officers and add private security — who unlike PEP can't make arrests and write summonses — has been a major source of ire.

The BPCA has said it will try to "do better" with community involvement, and had its first in a series of promised local forums in December, though that first meeting was bubbling with anger from many in the crowd. 

The debate comes as the neighborhood has attracted new restaurants and shops — as well as major companies, including Time Inc.— into Brookfield Place, with more businesses on the way.